Lincolnshire Football Association has been recognised at the 2023 County FA Recognition Awards for the 'Engage Lincolnshire', 'LGBTQ+ Inclusion' and 'Enough is Enough Discipline Roadshow' projects respectively.
The Awards, which were hosted at Wembley Stadium connected by EE, recognise and endorse the best projects, products and services delivered by County FAs over the past season while sharing best practice and learnings from around the country. The ceremony was attended by nearly 400 people from across the County FA network, as well as the evening's special guest - England, Manchester United, and Tottenham legend - Teddy Sheringham. The FA's Mark Bullingham and Debbie Hewitt were also guests of honour. The ceremony was hosted by Sky Sports' Kyle Walker.
A record-breaking 242 submissions have been entered from the 50 County FAs operating across England, highlighting continuous improvements and showcasing how they are innovating to improve grassroots football and increase participation across all levels of the game.
While Lincolnshire FA were, unfortunately, not winners in the respective categories we were finalists in - the work done by the Lincolnshire FA team were recognised with trophies, commemorating and commending the efforts and achievements in these areas.
Lincolnshire FA's Brand Engagement work with the 'Engage Lincolnshire' project, led by Zack Leader, was the first category during the evening to be recognised. The project identified that while lots of positive and influential work goes on across the Lincolnshire football landscape, very little of it is shouted about – including the inspirational work that the volunteers in Lincolnshire do, and certainly that of what is delivered by Lincolnshire FA (including County Cup competitions, CPD events, Facilities funding and development, inclusion campaigns, and female, male, and disability pathway opportunities).
The way Lincolnshire FA communicated and engaged with its audience, and the wider footballing community within Lincolnshire, needed a refresh and an upgrade. The majority of these stakeholders weren’t aware of what Lincolnshire FA do on a day-to-day basis, let alone what positive impact we have in supporting and developing the grassroots game in the County, with many only being aware of Lincolnshire FA when receiving fines or disciplinary action.
This would mean delivering digital communications in a way that we never have before, changing the narrative of both the County FA and the wider football
narrative and landscape. As a result, the work in this area saw our total social
media following increased by 2,049 followers, the number of website users increase by 7.4% to 65,305 users, our Facebook content reach 306,540 (an increase of 90.6%), our Instagram content reach 12,368 (an increase of 2.5K%), our LinkedIn content make 13,554 impressions, our Twitter content make 4.3M impressions, our TikTok content have 15,075 views, our social media page visits reach 223,455, our email marketing database grow from 2,750 contacts to 36,000 contacts, with 2,500 opt-ins grow to 4,099 opt-ins.
There was also a full rebrand of the organisation, designed to reflect the organisation’s mission and vision, including the complete regeneration of colour coding, brand shapes & design, typeface, and voice & tone, that was applied to social media, stationary, etc. New logos were also created for each County Cup to develop the identity of the competitions.
Lincolnshire FA was then recognised in the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion category for the work completed for LGBTQ+ inclusion, lead by Jordan Mason. A programme of initiatives was developed throughout the 2022/23 season, which included the appointment of a voluntary LGBTQ+ Ambassador, the launch of the Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited Club Programme, a series of LGBTQ+ Inclusion Workshops, social media campaigns in line with national campaigns such as Rainbow Laces Week, Football v Homophobia Month of Action, Football v Transphobia Week, and Pride Month, as well as the Lincolnshire FA Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action.
The series of initiatives in the 2022/23 season have been hugely successful. Lincolnshire FA’s LGBTQ+ Ambassador, Zack, was appointed just before Rainbow Laces Week in 2022. Zack is an openly gay grassroots player who has received homophobic abuse in the past, however has shown great personal strength to sustain his involvement in the game and become a proud voice advocating for LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football.
The Lincolnshire FA LGBTQ+ Inclusive Accredited Club Programme has been awarded to 6 clubs, with several more engaged with the programme. Feedback has been incredibly positive. One club that is now accredited shared a story of a sibling of one of their players now feeling comfortable attending games thanks to the accreditation – they previously saw football as unwelcome because of their sexuality, but now come to watch every week!
The LGBTQ+ Inclusion workshops have engaged over 65 attendees across 5 workshops. Feedback from attendees has shown increases in knowledge of LGBTQ+ identities and issues, confidence supporting LGBTQ+ players, and knowledge of the reporting process, with 100% of attendees enjoying the workshop.
Lincolnshire FA’s Football v Homophobia Weekend of Action saw Zack delivering a Q&A to over 9,900 spectators at half-time of Lincoln City’s dedicated game against Portsmouth, and a section in the matchday programme. Over 60 players attended the mixed-gender tournament from across the male, female, disability and walking football pathways. Over 80 attendees attended the panel Q&A event, with Lou Englefield (Pride Sports), Billy Bingham (Astra Partners, Jake Daniels’ Agent) and Graeme Smith (Foxes Pride Chair and Co-Founder) discussing homophobia and LGBTQ+ Inclusion in football.
Finally, Lincolnshire FA received recognition in the Positive Football Environment category for the 'Enough is Enough Discipline Roadshows' project, lead by Alistair Hayes, Hayley Gregory, and Chris Funnell. Lincolnshire FA recognised prior to the commencement of the 2022/23 season a continuing upward trend in the number of incidents of misconduct being reported to the County FA. In the 20/21 Season, Lincolnshire FA began tracking misconduct reports using Smartsheets and found we had received and completed 227 investigations in relation to reports of alleged misconduct in grassroots football. Of these 227 investigations, this resulted in 166 misconduct charges being raised.
In the 21/22 season, these numbers rose significantly, with misconduct investigations rising by 66% to 377. Misconduct charges for season 21/22 also rose by 41% resulting in 234 misconduct charges arising from reports of alleged misconduct. This increase in poor behaviour has also had an impact on enjoyment of the game at grassroots level nationally, with the FA’s own positivity score dropping from 70% in January 2021 to 63% in May 2022.
In total, 7 ‘Enough is Enough’ roadshows were delivered across Lincolnshire between November 2022 and February 2023. Across the 7 ‘Enough is Enough’ Roadshows, we engaged with 167 grassroots volunteers from across Lincolnshire.
These volunteers ranged from League and Club officials to managers and coaches all with a part to play in reporting poor behaviour in Lincolnshire. This comfortably surpassed the original target of 85 attendees for the roadshows.
To help with the engagement with the roadshows, the Lincolnshire FA collaborated with 6 of our grassroots leagues to develop sessions, specific to their league and provide them with information relevant to challenges they may face.
Feedback from the delivery of the roadshows was also positive, with many attendees expecting a lecture for an hour but were pleasantly surprised to have an opportunity to discuss and interact with the delivery.
By having 167 attendees across Lincolnshire, we were able to engage with a large number of volunteers, increasing their knowledge of the disciplinary process and building confidence that there is a process to go through whether as an alleged offender or an alleged victim.
The FA’s Head of Operations for Grassroots Football, Tim Foster, said: "It has been brilliant to celebrate the tremendous work that takes place across all of our County FAs.
The projects submitted into this year’s County FA Recognition Awards are a testament to the hard work and dedication across our County FA network which works tirelessly to deliver grassroots football to the communities in which they serve.
My congratulations go to all of the winners, and to everyone involved in delivering new and innovative projects to grow and enhance the grassroots game."
Lincolnshire FA's CEO, Nick Hanson, added: "It was a fantastic night at Wembley where we, as a collective County FA network, had the chance to recognise and reward the immense and tremendous work being done across the country by County FA's. While we unfortunately weren't winners on this occasion, we are immensely proud to have been finalists in three categories and have the brilliant work by our team recognised.
We are very lucky at Lincolnshire FA to have such a hard working and passionate staff team and so this recognition is testament to the work they've put in across the last year.
I'd like to thank Gavin Lemmon and the team at The FA for hosting such a special evening and for all their efforts to ensure it was as enjoyable and successful as it was."
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